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Robert Trigaux

Rays future? Divided, we bicker, united we stand a chance to grow up as a region




Above: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, left, talks with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg at Tropicana Field on Monday.
Photo: James Borchuck, St. Petersburg Times

Wake up and good morning. I happened to be in Miami a few days ago. It's one thing to look from afar at the greater Miami area's lousy economic statistics of high unemployment and housing woes. It is very different to be there for several days marveling at the pace of new activity around its port, the astonishing condo towers that somehow continue to get filled with the aid of Latin American money and, yes, the impressive new Florida Marlins baseball stadium (photo, right, courtesy of Florida Marlins) rising fast out of the busy chaos that is Miami. Check out the stadium's exterior webcam.

floridamarlinsnewbaseballstadiumcourtesymarlins.jpgFor all its faults -- and there are too many to list here (except traffic!) -- Miami somehow manages to get things done, to get new things built, that Tampa Bay struggles over time and again.

This photo above, showing Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg this week at a Rays game in St. Petersburg, is a case in point. Buckhorn's presence and its symbolic implications was explored in this Tampa Tribune story and this St. Petersburg Times article.

This is the ludicrous Kabuki Theater going on in Tampa Bay that will result in the eventual loss of the Rays franchise in this market unless somebody wakes up. It boils down to this silly script:

Rays owner Sternberg: Our attendance stinks. We need a new stadium soon. Anyone interested?

St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster: You signed a lease at the Trop. You must pay the rent!

Rays owner Sternberg: We're trying but this deal is not working. We need a new stadium or we will break the lease (and pay St. Petersburg some money) and try our luck elsewhere.

St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster: You signed a lease. You must pay the rent!

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn: Say hey, Rays, come to Tampa before you decide to leave Tampa Bay. We have no money but we will find a way!

Rays owner Sternberg: I knew there was a reason we asked you to throw out a first pitch at a game this week.

Okay, enough silliness. But here's the point. Tampa Bay is so dysfunctional -- financially and in its profound lack of economic development cooperation -- that the Rays future here will boil down to a petty pi$$ing match between St. Petersburg and Tampa when in fact a regional effort to keep the Rays here would actually work (that includes Clearwater and other cities, too).

And somehow, crazy old Miami manages to keep on trucking. Go take a look at the new Marlins stadium coming to life down in South Florida. It's a sight to behold.

This isn't Miami envy. It's really about getting our own act together as a region for the future. Maybe that's really the core question: Do we want to become "Tampa Bay" or shall we remain vaguely content as a conglomeration of smaller cities pursuing their own modest agendas?

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

[Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2011 8:11am]


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